Things won’t get any easier for the Boston Bruins (11-5-1, 23 points) on Saturday night when they welcome the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Kings (12-5-0, 24 points) to the TD Garden (7 p.m. ET). The Bruins might be riding a three-game winning streak into the tilt with the Kings, and will get the Kings on the tail end of a back-to-back for Los Angeles after playing at Buffalo on Friday night, but head coach Claude Julien knows the task won’t be easy against an upstart squad that is finally realizing its potential.
“We’re probably facing one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” Julien said of the Kings. “They’ve been through some tough times but they’ve obviously drafted well and built well. They got a team right now that has a lot of confidence and definitely a lot of skill. So we’ll be tested [Saturday], there’s definitely no doubt there."
“It’s high-end players throughout their lineup,” Julien added. "They’re high-tempo. They’ve got a ton of skill spread out throughout their lineup. They come at you shift after shift and from the back end moving on forward.”
Julien praised Kings captain Dustin Brown for his well-rounded game and leadership. Brown’s game is rubbing off on his teammates, and the Kings are now a team to reckon with.
“Their captain, [Dustin] Brown, to me is probably one of the hardest-nosed players in the league that can play both ways, physically and, obviously, on the stat sheet, and it starts from there,” Julien said. “Then the rest of their lineup, we could talk forever.”
Kings general manager and Ludlow, Mass., native Dean Lombardi has done an amazing job of building through the draft, and his patience is paying off.
“That’s what happens when you struggle for a few years -- you take those top-end players and you take advantage in the draft and eventually the cream comes to the top, I guess, if you want to put it that way,” Julien said. “They’re starting to show the quality of the players they’ve drafted now because they’ve got a few years of experience.”
When asked if the Kings reminded him of the Penguins -- a young, elite team in the Eastern Conference -- Julien agreed. Both teams bided their time through some tough seasons and through the draft, they are now Stanley Cup contenders, with the Penguins having won one Cup already and been to the finals twice.
“To a certain extent, yeah, because Pittsburgh went through the same thing and so has L.A.,” Julien said. “Everyone chooses a different way to rebuild their team, and for some, it’s patience and drafting good. And I think that’s what L.A. has done, too.”